Home Game Reviews Ark Nova: Marine Worlds Expansion Review

Ark Nova: Marine Worlds Expansion Review


Ark NovaI previously reviewed Ark Nova for Board Game Quest. I gave it 5 Stars. I REALLY enjoy the game, and I still do. It remains in my Top 5 games of all time.

At the end of my review, I mentioned that an expansion, Aquarius, was in development. Fast forward two years, and I have Aquarius, renamed Marine World, in my grubby little hands.

If you like Ark Nova, will you like the expansion? Ye …I mean, read on to find out!

Expansion Overview:

Marine World adds the following to Ark Nova (in parentheses are the number of additional components included to replacement elements from the base game):

  • 81 new cards, 38 replacements
    • 54 Zoo cards (9)
      • 32 Animals
      • 16 Sponsors (8)
      • 6 Conservation Projects (1)l new cards
    • 6 Final Scoring cards (7)
    • 1 Base Conservation Project card (2)
    • 20 alternate Action cards (20)
  • 8 Special Enclosures
  • 4 unique buildings
  • 6 Bonus tiles (1)
  • 7 university tiles for the new university
  • Updated Association board
  • 10 wooden components for each player color
  • 3 Kiosk/Pavilion tiles
  • 1 tile for solo play
Ark Nova Marine Worlds gameplay
Setup using the new wooden components, as well as two of the twenty new Action cards.

Game Experience with the Expansion:

Expansions can be hit or miss. I want an expansion that extends the replay value of a base game I already enjoy, like Terraforming Mars: Prelude, for example. I do not want something that muddies up the experience I already enjoy, like Terraforming Mars: Turmoil, for example. Marine World is PERFECT for me.

Right off the bat, all the new cards include a seahorse symbol so I can EASILY identify the expansion cards if I want to remove them (which I never will….) Also, the new content fits in the base game box. Huzzah!

Ark Nova Marine Worlds Cards
All of the new cards included in Marine World, including the four new unique buildings and their related cards

38 replacement cards are included to update cards that needed power changes due to the contents of Marine Worlds, or needed updated icons, such as all animal types. In addition, they added a new symbol for “different continent types, even though “there is no new continent[s] in this expansion”. I wonder why they changed that icon…

Each action has four unique alternate Action cards included in Marine World, totaling twenty new alternate Action cards. If you add these to your game, there will be a quick draft during setup. Players will draft 3 new Action cards, of which they will keep two. The two cards that are kept will replace the original Action cards. When the draft is completed, you will have two alternate Action cards and three original Action cards. These alternate actions are powerful!

For example, one of the Animals Action cards will reduce the cost of the first animal you play by two. Another allows you to mark a card after you play an animal. Marking is a new ability that allows the player to place one of their player tokens on a card in the display. If that card is discarded, it comes to their hand; however, if it leaves the display in any other way, the player will gain two monies instead. I am not going to describe all the new abilities (or their upgraded abilities on the second side) – let’s just say the are fun to play with and, like Terraforming Mars: Prelude, can even speed up the game. I really enjoyed these alternate actions!

Ark Nova Marine Worlds Cards
I think the alternative Action cards are one of the most interesting additions, so here they all are!

There are also new animals, most of which are, unsurprisingly, aquatic, as well as their related enclosures. These new cards add new abilities such as:

  • The wave icon – when a card with this icon is placed into the display, remove the lowest card, slide all cards, including the one with the wave icon, down one space, and draw another card
  • Reef Dwellers – when played, the reef dweller, as well as ALL previously played Reef Dwellers, trigger their Reef Dweller effect
  • Shark Attack – discard a card within reputation range, earning half of its appeal value

I really enjoyed the new abilities, especially the wave icon. This new power helps move cards off the display faster, allowing players to see more cards during their game. There are more new abilities beyond the three I described above, all of which are covered in the excellent glossary that is included in the box.

Ark Nova Marine Worlds Board
The updated Association board. Notice the new University space, as well as the tokens on the right, with different versions for each animal category.

They also added a new university, as well as an updated Association board to accommodate the new university. This university has six different tokens. The left side of all six tokens is a Research icon, while the right side is one of the six different animal categories (not including Bears or Petting Zoo animals). If you take this new university, you can choose which of the available tokens you want. Not only will this add the research icon to your zoo, but it will also add one of the corresponding animal icons. In addition, you will reveal cards from the top of the deck until an Animal or Sponsor card with a matching icon is revealed. This provides a quick way to try to find a card for the animal category you want. This also adds a balancing act of when, or if, you decide to pursue this university as one of your opponents may grab the one you want before you can.

Final Thoughts:

I loved Marine Worlds! It exceeded even my lofty expectations. It is so easy to integrate into the base game, addresses compatibility and future proofing by including 38 replacement cards and a new Association board, adds alternate Action cards, new Zoo, Scoring and Conservation cards, bonus tiles, and mechanisms to the game, all without overcomplicating or changing the experience.

If you like Ark Nova, this is a no brainer. In fact, if you did NOT like Ark Nova, specifically because of the card availability and display cycling issues, this is one of the rare expansions that I would recommend trying. You may find that the Marine World “fixes” the game for you!

Expansion BuyHits:
• New Action cards
• New cards and mechanisms to cycle through cards faster
• New university and bonus tiles
• Easy to incorporate new content into the base game
• Fits in the base game box

• I wish there were more aquatic cards

Get Your Copy

Brian’s love of boardgames was revitalized when he discovered Puerto Rico in 2005. He now enjoys playing worker placement, deck building, dice driven and coop games with his primary gaming partner, his wife.

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